1989 - Volume #13, Issue #5, Page #18[ Sample Stories From This Issue | List of All Stories In This Issue | Print this story | Read this issue]
Artificial Leg Keeps Meg The Cow Going
Thanks to the artificial leg, or prosthesis, Meg will be able to continue to produce embryos for transplant to other cows. Her productive life might even equal that of her sister, the top-ranked Jersey cow in the country based on milk production and genetics.
Meg caught the leg in a fence and suffered an open fracture. The doctors removed the leg from the knee on down and replaced it with a prosthesis similar to the ones used by humans. The prosthesis is made from metal, graphite, and PVC pipe with foam padding on top where it meets the upper portion of the leg. Goodyear tire tread provides traction at the bottom of the leg.
Dr. Guy Saint-Jean, currently with the College of Veterinary Medicine, Kansas State University, performed the operation. "I tried to repair the leg but it didn't heal properly. We could have amputated the leg without replacing it, but without some type of support for the remaining part of the leg, Meg wouldn't have lasted long. Now Meg can put part of her weight on the artificial leg. Horses and llamas have been fitted successfully with artificial legs, but it's still a fairly new idea on cattle so the jury is still out on whether it's practical or not. Younger animals are better candidates for a prosthesis than adults because they're not as ungainly or as set in their ways."
Amputating Meg's leg and fitting it with an artificial one cost about $ 1,500, according to Dr. St. Jean. He predicts that prosthesis replacements will become more popular as the value of cow embryo donors and top performance bulls increases.
The owner of an animal fitted with a prosthesis needs to do a lot of follow-up work with the animal, says Dr. St. Jean. "The prosthesis must be removed every night and dried off. If the animal is young and will grow a lot, the size of the prosthesis will need to be changed periodically.
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